Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Whirlybird for All Seasons

I'm hosting the Stampin' Dymonz Scrap Shack Off the Page group this fortnight (what? It's easier than saying "2 weeks"), and I've chosen the theme of Polymer Clay, focusing on making molds, stamps & embellishments to add texture to projects.

I'm going to be posting my projects on my blog and on the group forum, for those who aren't members (but you should be! It's tons of fun, and you'll find yourself making projects you never thought you would).

My first project is a simple example of how you can make a mold out of just about anything. One of most favorite things to do (although I've never blogged about it) is to "bring in the outside in," such as using natural found objects for creative purposes. I gather branches to hang ornaments; I made a vest covered in feathers once; and I can never part with a flower, assuming it dries not rots. I've been wanting to make a mold with a whirlybird (wing-like seed pods), and this seemed like a perfect opportunity!

Here are the basic tools you need:
  • Sculpey clay (or the like)
  • a roller (the one in the photo came as part of a children's baking set; before I got it, I used a bottle.
  • a knife (pictured here is my finger knife, but I've worked with plastic knives before!)
  • a little bit of water, to keep your hands clean and keep the clay from sticking
  • tweezers, optional but handy; there were great for lifting the whirlybird out of the clay.
Roll out an amount of clay slightly larger than the object you're making a mold of (you want to have some stability). Because I wasn't making a very deep indent, I rolled this to about an eighth of an inch. As you can see, I don't worry about how the mold looks; I usually use scraps.

Gently push the object into the clay. It's natural to want to smoosh it in there, but a gentle press is all you need:
...isn't that pretty? Now bake the mold in a 275F oven for 15-20 minutes.

After letting it cool (I recommend letting molds rest for at least 20 minutes to ensure hardness, but I tend to be impatient and let it sit only 10), roll out another piece of clay to whatever thickness you want your embellishment to be. Coat the mold with just a bit of water. Not too much! Gently press the clay into the mold, allowing the clay to overlap the mold just a bit to make it easier to remove the clay. I find that lightly rolling over it helps create an even impression.

With your knife, carefully cut around the object (or make a frame; whatever your preference). Don't worry about having a clean edge; you can round the edges after baking with sandpaper or an emery board. Because I'm making an actual object here, I wanted to put a hole in it. You want to do this before baking! With the object on a flat surface (preferably the one you'll be baking on, so you won't need to transfer it), slide a needle or pin of the desired width straight through the clay. I find that turning it gently while pushing helps to make a clean hole without mussing up the clay.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, rest 10 minutes, and then sand for clean edges. The photo below isn't great, but all the detail is in there.

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, I strung it on bead thread and hung it on one of our tomato plants. So simple!

When working with found objects, you'll probably want to clean them. The best, easiest way to do this with natural objects is to put them into the freezer for 24 hours or so. If it's something that wouldn't stand up to moisture (like the whirlybird), put it in an airtight baggie.


  1. Wow I am loving this. I like sculpting and am planning to work with ceramic.Polymer clay is not easily available in India but I am working on a substitute and I will be eagerly waiting to see all your projects

  2. Very cool are so creative!

  3. That is interesting, thanks for sharing!
    hey, Pixie Dust Paperie is having a giveaway, please come join in the fun!

  4. certainly out of the ordinary, I might have to give this a try sometime


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